Review: The Fault in Our Stars
Young adult movies have never been my thing. Throw a chick flick into there and you’d be damn sure I’m not going to see it. But The Fault in Our Stars bucked both of those notions and was actually a good film.
Big spoilers for the book and movie.
This movie is based off the book of the same name. I have never read the book, but my fiancée who has says the movie was a very faithful adaptation of the novel. Hazel (Shailene Woodley) is a cancer patient who meets and subsequently falls in love with Augustus (Ansel Elgort), who she meets at a cancer support group. Augustus has survived cancer but has his leg amputated. They bond as the months go on and their relationship hits some highs and lows.
Early on, the plot deals with a lot of clichéd story beats from other young adult movies, such as being alone and clearly no one understands how she feels. It’s hard to watch as it has been done a thousand times over and The Fault in Our Stars doesn’t add anything fresh to the formula. She meets Augustus and they instantly fall in love and we are shown many scenes about why they are perfect for each other. Nothing about them meeting feels natural though. It’s instantaneous and feels like some fantasy that Hazel is playing out. I was told multiple times by my fiancée that, “This is how it feels to be in the head of a teenage girl.” Maybe that’s why I couldn’t relate? I prefer other movies like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and (500) Days of Summer, where the start of the main couple’s relationship feels earned and natural. Once all the pleasantries are out of the way though, their relationship starts to feel real. It’s very sweet and gives the actors plenty of time to use their chemistry to drive the movie. I found myself caring for them as a couple, where I normally could care less for a movie of this genre. The humor also gets some time to shine, and I found myself laughing at most of the jokes. But once the couple gets home from Amsterdam, the problems start to pop up again.
Since this is was originally a first person novel, I’m not surprised there are narrations at certain points. Narrations can be a hard thing to do well in movies. Near the end though, Hazel’s narrations give away that Augustus is going to be dying soon. This feels cheap as it manipulates the audience’s heartstrings for the sake of manipulation. Why not forgo the narration and let the scene play out? Then when Augustus actually died, it would hit the audience that much harder. The narration drags out the final act of the movie, as the audience sits there waiting for events the narration gave away half an hour ago. It’s emotional, and very well acted, but revealing the ending well before the climax was a mistake.
For a film that only has a two hour running time, The Fault in Our Stars feels quite long. It’s hard to place a finger on what specific scenes needed to be edited down to quicken the pace, but something had to be done. I found myself wanting to check my cell phone a couple of times later in the movie.
The acting is superb with Woodley and Elgort lighting up the screen. They have an infectious level of chemistry that gives weight to their relationship and the heartbreak each suffer. When Augustus is trying to tell Hazel about his cancer, Elgort gives it his all as we can see him trying to hold it together for her but slowly breaking down. It really brought me into the scene. The script makes Augustus a massive prick at the beginning but Elgort slowly worms his way in and makes the character very likable. Woodley, who has already shown she can act in The Descendants, shines as Hazel. Woodley feels held back in the beginning by the early scripts mistakes, but makes up for this as the movie goes on. I loved when Hazel have a fight with her mom (Laura Dern, Jurassic Park) then make up as Woodley, through tears, shows how much love she has for her mom even in difficult times. The audience can see the range of conflicting emotions that flow across her face, and really sold how quickly her friendship with her mom can change. Willem Defoe has a brief role that pushes the plot along nicely, and seems to be having quite a bit of fun being an absolute ass.
The Fault in Our Stars is a good date movie and one that will entertain the guys more than most. It’s has quite a few problems, but is entertaining enough. And if you liked the book, you’ll most likely enjoy the movie as well.
One last thing….“You were making out during Schindler’s List?!”
The Fault in Our Stars gets 3/5.
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